Easy (green) Rider

By Chelle Cordero

April 3, 2009 5 min read


Technology powers eco-friendly bikes and motorcycles

Chelle Cordero

Creators News Service

Motorcycles are economical and fuel-efficient -- not to mention lots of fun to ride. The average "gas-guzzler" will give its owner upwards of 60 miles on a single gallon of gas.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, motorcycles consume 56 percent less fuel per mile traveled. Many manufacturers' engineering departments have improved technology making the bikes not only more fuel efficient but also more environmentally friendly. Companies like Honda offer motorcycles that far exceed even the most stringent air emission standards.

However, even the most environmentally friendly vehicle, whether on two or four wheels, will emit harmful emissions into the air if it burns. The normal gasoline that is pumped into internal combustion engines is comprised of liquid hydrocarbons made from petroleum products; when this fuel burns, it releases hydrocarbons.

China is just one of the countries that have banned some gasoline consuming vehicles. Other governments concerned with the greenhouse effect are also taking steps to ensure vehicles run cleaner.

Automobile and motorcycle manufacturers have been experimenting with alternative fuels such as electricity, liquid propane, ethanol, methanol and bio-diesels. While many hybrid cars have been receiving praise, there are plenty of innovations on two wheels.

The electric Vectrix VX-1 scooter can go as fast as 62 miles per hour and as far as 55 miles on Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries before needing another charge. This zero emission vehicle is produced by Vectrix USA, based in Rhode Island.

"When the company first brought the bikes to market, there was a waiting list of people who wanted to be on the leading edge of new technology and do something environmentally conscious," said Gary Kimball, a spokesperson for Vectrix. A cross between a scooter and a motorcycle, the Vectrix "can reduce CO2 emission by five tons a year per household."

Susan Fahnestock, owner and founder of The Green Car Company based in Bellevue, Wa., called electric bikes the "wave of the future." Comparable to a moped, "it's not intimidating, uses pedal power if you run out of charge, and is a great second-car substitute."

The company's lightweight A2B electric bicycle offers the rider up to 20 mph and up to 20 miles on a single battery charge. The bike can be fitted with a second battery for an additional 20 miles. "This is great for local use, especially when you've got hilly, challenging terrain," she said.

Brammo Motorsport in Oregon is presently taking orders for its Enertia Electric motorcycle. The Enertia will have a top speed of 50 mph and has built in software that will allow the rider to program their own riding patterns for maximum performance. It uses lithium phosphate battery modules and will go up to 45 miles on an average three-hour charge. Like the Vectrix and A2B, the more conservative you are when riding, the longer the charge will last.

A prototype of the Suzuki Crosscage was introduced in 2007 at the Tokyo Auto Show. It uses hydrogen-fed polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells designed by Intelligent Energy in Britain, which produces zero CO2 emissions. explained, "Both Intelligent Energy and Suzuki are committed to the development of cleaner and more responsible vehicles for the consumer. The Crosscage is an example of what can be achieved when invention meets ambition," said Henri Winand, chief executive of Intelligent Energy. The company has also produced its own fuel cell bike, the Env, using compressed air.

Another prototype introduced at the Tokyo Auto Show is the Yamaha Luxair, a hybrid motorcycle with a gasoline engine and an electric motor that function in parallel. The Luxair concept is the world's first dual fuel cycle, which will switch between gas and alternate fuel to maintain speed and power and also reduce carbon emissions.

There are several designs for alternative-fuel two-wheeled vehicles, lots of prototypes and plenty of dreams. Between the cost of gasoline and the dangers of unchecked pollution, people are waiting impatiently for reliable, efficient, economical, and earth-friendly transportation.

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